Arguably, Finland is quite the metal country. One thing though: How
can it be that I walk into a record store in 2012 and find a first press
version of this album in plain view on the shelf? Has no-one bought
this for 24 years? Has all your money been spent on Nightwish, my dear
soumalainens? Well, one thing is certain: That CD is not there anymore
and will soon be transferred out of your country by its new owner, ME,
and will be placed next to the “Grin” copy I found in Australia. I
wonder where I have to go to find “No more color”… Yes, I like Coroner.
After a short intro reminiscent of Celtic Frost’s screaming intro into “Morbid Tales” – however well-done and not
annoying – “Punishment for decadence” is basically a continuation of
what had begun on “R.I.P.”. Groove-laden mid-pace sections alternate
with frantic guitar work that, once let loose, probably warrants the
cautious use of the term “neoclassical”. A prime example for this the
instrumental “Arc-Lite” (also in good “R.I.P” tradition, see
“Nosferatu”) which moves from fretboard acrobatics into rhythm dominated
passages through abrupt, but calculated transitions. And how that all
works together through the weirdest of proceedings is the true feat of
Unlike between some of their later works, Coroner’s progression from
“R.I.P.” to this album is rather timid. Still, it is substantial.
“Punishment…” in my book manages to connect its ideas better, and the
band match their high speed /thrash proficiency with high riff
memorability and some parts of driving groove (Masked Jackal).
Still, a few songs sound like they could have been taken straight off
“R.I.P.”. Which is a great album, don’t get me wrong. Yet where it left
some room for improvement, the band now delivers exactly that with their
7. A huge step up from “R.I.P.”, but still dated
and desperately lacking in punch, which affects the low end worst of
all. The kick drums sound like a cardboard box. However, and that’s why
this still gets a good grade, at least transparency is high and it’s
easy to make out the bass crystal clearly, which is a huge bonus, see
8.5. Tommy Vetterli, … excuse me. Tommy T. Baron
is a great guitarist, no doubt about that. One thing I want to get out
of the way right away though. He plays the same solo motif all the fucken time
on this album, as if he hadn’t already abused it on the predecessor.
Luckily, someone else has already taken the effort and made that into a YouTube video to illustrate my point. WUEEE–WAHWAHWUEEE – and those excerpts were only from “R.I.P.”. After “Punishment for decadence”, that bit has never been used again, at least.
So, relying solely on bass backing,
is free to shred his way relentlessly throughout the album and drives
the music forward, pulling the listener through tempo and rhythm changes
effortlessly. Apart from those little solo annoyances – each solo for
itself is still great, mind you – this really is a top notch performance
of an innovative and damn skilled player. Unfortunately, the first half
of this section dealing with the tiny black spot on his otherwise
pristine vest is now longer than the second covering the positive sides,
so to avoid a false impression, I’ll just write a few more words to at
least even it out. There.
7.5. Ron Royce, yes they all have crappy stage
names, seems to never separate his jaws from each other and hisses the
lyrics through clenched teeth. Sounds pretty cool when things get
thrashy, but you might not understand all that much during your first
few listens. Still, in general the guy shows a fairly good grasp of
English, so there are no utterly weird moments. And the most important
thing is that the vocals fit well with the music. Except for that
Hendrix cover, where there is a SUDDEN! FAAAAAALL of quality. scusemeeeeewhileIkissdesky just doesn’t work. I skip that song more often than listening to it, and that’s not because of the music.
9. As always the instrument easiest to omit, bass
is definitely a true monster here. What’s happening on Ron Royce’s four
strings is absolutely mindboggling. The guy plays with his fingers,
which makes the way he follows anything from the (comparatively) simple
triplet to whirlwind-like lead guitar fretboard acrobatics nothing short
of amazing. Not just that, but everything stays perfectly tight.
Everyone who’s held a bass the right way (and those who’ve held it the
wrong way probably even more so) knows how blurry a song becomes when
the bass does a little too much, yet not precisely enough. Not.
Sure, one could say the only thing bass does on “Punishment for
decadence” is to provide low-end. However, Royce mirrors the guitar in everything
it does – which is a lot – with perfectly tight results. And that,
ladies and gentlemen, is a fucken feat. It makes a second guitar
absolutely unnecessary thanks to the snarly-edged and punchy tone of the
bass and speaks volumes of Mr Royce, who also pulled most of this shit
off live while handling the vocals. Haaaats – off!
8.5 Hampered by the production, Marquis Marky (if
there was a rolleyes-smiley, it would come here) still manages to show
that he is a great drummer. He uses double bass more and especially more
creatively than your run-of-the-mill 1988 thrash drummer, but it’s more
his general rhythmic work that deserves some attention. While Vetterli
does his thing on guitar, and does it well, that only works because of
the bass backing and the great help in structuring the riff flow from
Marky’s cymbal accentuations. Plus, his playing rarely resorts to
standard patterns – which means, when things get back to a standard 4/4
beat, that one actually feels a lot more driving thanks to the contrast.
(See “Sudden Fall” at 2:41, for example) Overall, this guy does exactly
what is needed of him, and provides just that one third required in a
three piece to make it work, which sounds easier than it is.
Social commentary, drugs, metaphors on relationships, a bit of
science fiction. It’s actually all pretty good! Also, there is this
weirdly current sample on convoy bombings in Afghanistan in “The new
breed” which is a bit like time travel. No really. Time travel I tells
8.5 Iconic as it is, it is probably the Coroner
shirt design most notoriously found, until today, also adorning my
shelf. Sure I miss the awesome “Corporate identity” stripe of the later
albums, but this looks awesome by itself. Also, it’s continuing the
circlical layout from R.I.P., which is nice.
All of this makes good sense, but did you know there actually was an
alternative cover that turns all I just wrote upside down? Well, here
Make up your own mind about that issue, but I actually like both
versions. Noise Records apparently decided to change the artwork for the
CD release without the band. That would also explain why Marquis Marky
is still credited for “Photo credits” in the booklet. Anyway, from a purely visual standpoint,
in hindsight that probably wasn’t such a horrible label intervention.
One might however say that Coroner were ahead of their time in that
respect also, thinking already of a new design standard for their
records while their label decided to stay stuck in the same old rut. Not
a terrible effort by all means though, since Noise clearly were trying
to establish a tradition of their own, however starting at “R.I.P.”. And
yeah, the skeleton man sure works better on merchandise.
9. Coronörhead? Who cares, bent gothic rocks. I
could spend the rest of my life looking at bent gothic fonts. Come time,
heäven’s gate will be adorned by bent gothic as well, I’m sure.
7. Lyrics, thank yous, lots of coroner icons, and
one song title cut short by layouting. Plus, while most pages have only
one song text, the last one has two crammed underneath each other. Well,
I guess the concept didn’t work so well at the printer’s after all.
Still, this is better than most booklets.
I’m not gonna lie – this album is tough to love on first listen.
Give it a couple of listens though and you might just agree with my rant
above. As I have hopefully laid out, I believe this is a definitive
classic. Like all of Coroner’s material, this is mandatory for any
thrasher that employs a brain cell or two.